What’s out and about?

10th April 2013

Apologies for the lack of entries in the Wild Food Diaries for the last week or so, we’ve been out running bushcraft courses continually for the last 10 days or so, but to make up for it here’s a round up of what’s out and about in the foraging world for this time of year and for this part of the country.

Some of the things we have looked at previously are starting to disappear.  The relatively dry weather over the last two weeks has caused most of the Jelly Ear to dry up but it can still be collected and used in that form. Another fungi that we were finding in large numbers, the Scarlet Elf Cup, is also becoming scarce with the dry weather and we are only finding the odd one or two still around.

The Silver Birch sap has been quite erratic. It was definately running at the beginning of March, then with the cold weather it stopped for a while, then started to run again a couple of weeks later. It still seems to be flowing reasonably well but will almost certainly tail off in the coming week or so.  The Sycamore sap seems to have started flowing a couple of weeks ago and is still going strong.

The cold weather in March has certainly delayed many plants from flowering.  Whilst the “wild plums” (escapes from cultivation) have been flowering for a while the Blackthorns in many areas, especially in exposed places are yet to blossom.  The feral plums can be identified by their lack of thorns, larger blossom and from the fact that the leaves tend to be out whilst it is flowering whereas on Blackthorn the leaves don’t appear until the blossom is finishing.  In our woods the Lesser Celandine is only just starting to come into flower, and although not edible, normally the Wood Anemones would be well on the way to flowering now. As we’ve mentioned before, there have been sightings of Three-Cornered Leeks in flower almost since Christmas in some parts of the country, yet ours are just starting to flower now.

Lesser Celandine Flower

Survival and bushcraft trainingBushcraft Courses

It’s not just the flowers which have been delayed.  Normally by now the Wood Sorrel would be well and truly up, we have managed to locate just very tiny seedlings just emerging among the leaf litter but you almost need a magnifying glass to find them.  The Hawthorn leaves are out on some trees sheltered in the middle of the woodland, but on the exposed plants in the hedgerow they are nowhere near ready to open. With the fickle weather, many leaves are showing signs of frost damage; Dog’s Mercury (again certainly not edible), Comfrey and Broad-leafed Dock are all looking decidedly worse for the cold and frosts over the last few weeks.

Frost damaged Dock leaf

However, it’s not all bad news. There is still a lot around and with the current warm sunny days things will start to grow and develop in no time.  Primroses are still in their prime and literally over  a couple of days the sunshine brought out a crop of Coltsfoot flowers in our Oxford wood, with more appearing all the time.

Coltsfoot Flower
Plants like Stinging Nettles, Dead Nettles, Hogweed shoots, Cleavers,  Hedge Garlic and Ground Elder are all abundant at the moment and at their optimum for being used over the next few weeks.  On our forages over the weekend all of them were collected and used in the meals we prepared.

Whilst out today all of these could be found along  a  hundred meters of footpath;-

Young Nettles 


Hairy Bittercress



Hogweed shoots



Hedge Garlic






Cow Parsley




Foraging edible plantsForaging Course

In addition there were the Coltsfoot flowers pictured above, young Broad-leaved Dock and Lesser Celandine.  All of these plants are common and are likely to be found along any hedgerow or footpath in the country, and all are perfect for collecting right now.


Kev Palmer


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